The unemployment rate has jumped to six per cent, not the sort of news Malcolm Turnbull’s new-look frontbench would have been hoping for. As the prime minister’s new team was sworn in by the governor-general, new figures also showed the number of people in employment fell by 7900 in January, and would have been worse if not for a rise in part-time workers. Economists had predicted the jobless rate staying at 5.8 per cent, but instead rose to its highest level since Mr Turnbull rolled Tony Abbott for the prime ministership in September.
Full-time employment tumbled by 40,600 while those in part-time work rose by 32,700. The figures came as a think tank said Australia is unlikely to face a recession in 2016 but weak national income poses risks to the economy. In its 2016 economic and political outlook, the Committee for Economic Development of Australia says falling commodity prices will impact how income weakness plays out, while business confidence is unlikely to improve with the politicking in this election year.
“This has the potential to have serious implications for the economy,” CEDA’s chief executive Stephen Martin said. He predicts the Turnbull government will be re-elected, albeit with a reduced majority. “Business confidence in the current government, of which there were high expectations, appears to be wavering,” Prof Martin says.